Despite being one of the most popular wall cladding options, PVC wall panels are not without their disadvantages. Being a highly cost-effective solution, many are prepared to overlook the cons of PVC wall panels. Though, it is a good idea to know the facts before deciding if PVC wall panels are your best option.
When discussing the disadvantages of PVC wall panels, we need to consider the alternatives. For bathroom or kitchen wall cladding, the traditional choice is usually wall tiles. In other areas of the home, and commercial buildings, PVC wall panels are an alternative to wallpaper, paint, and other cladding options, like wood, brick, or stone. PVC wall panels can be a perfect substitute for any of these wall cladding options. But, in some cases, may not quite compare to more traditional methods.
Before comparing PVC wall panels to the alternatives, we should address the concerns people have when using plastics. The term PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride (CH₂-CHC). This is a corrosion resistant material and is very flexible. The popularity of PVC stems from the fact that it is easily moulded and inexpensive. It can withstand water and has a reasonable tolerance to temperature though it is not an excellent material for high temperatures.
The most significant disadvantage to using PVC, are environmental concerns. Chlorine is an essential component of PVC products, and this is a volatile element. Chlorine can be released from PVC panels over time. Though this is minimal, and doesn’t has any adverse health implications, it is a cause for some concern. Modern health and safety regulations ensured improved environmental and health consequences arising from the use of PVC, though the hazards of chlorine can never be eliminated entirely.
Furthermore, while being a durable material, PVC is softer than many other materials used for wall cladding. Compared to ceramic, brick, or stone, PVC will sustain damage from knocks but is not entirely scratch resistant. To overcome this disadvantage, uPVC is the preferred option for high-quality PVC wall panels.
UPVC vs PVC Wall Panels
Unplasticised Polyvinyl Chloride (UPVC or PVCU) is a harder, less volatile product. It is, therefore, a better material for the manufacture of wall panels. UPVC wall panels are harder and more rigid than conventional PVC alternatives. The use of UPVC also improves the general safety of a building as it is fire resistant. While UPVC cannot be compared to brick, stone, or tiles in terms of hardwearing durability, it does negate most of the disadvantages associated with ordinary PVC wall panels.
Disadvantages of PVC Wall Panels Compared to Similar Products
PVC wall panels have printed designs, often imitating traditional wall cladding. When compared to tiles, PVC bathroom wall panels may look the part, but it does not have the ultra-long durability and texture of wall tiles. PVC panels tend to have a unique tongue and groove system that secures panels together during the installation process. These joins are not easily noticed but do indicate the artificial nature of the product.
Using uPVC will make the wall panel more durable than regular PVC, but will never compare to tile, brick, or stone. Whereas the natural material may easily last for hundreds of years, PVC panels may only last for decades. It will, at some point need replacing, however, wall panels are quick and affordable to replace. A wall panel manufactured from uPVC will probably last a lifetime, but it may tarnish from daily wear. Light scratches will affect appearance over time.
Comparing PVC wall panels to wood cladding is not as simple. Wood panelling can last indefinitely, but this requires regular maintenance. Once wood deteriorates, it is often impossible to renovate and may need replacing. PVC wood effect panels will have a more limited lifespan but require no maintenance. So if it’s the aesthetic of the wood that you’re after but without the demanding upkeep, wood effect wall panels are a great product. However, if you want an authentic wood look, feel and smell wood effect panels won’t fit your project.
Gloss vs Matt Finish
The aesthetics of a gloss finish, compared to matt, is a matter of personal taste. That would be true for any wall cladding. When it comes to the practicalities, there are pros and cons to either gloss or matt materials. A gloss finish is much easier to clean; it usually requires little more than a wipe with a damp cloth. By comparison, a matt finish requires more rigorous cleaning. The disadvantage to a gloss finish is that it reveals marks which may be less noticeable with a matt finish. A handprint on a glossy wall panel will be immediately noticed but may be hardly visible on a matt finish.
Price vs Quality
A compelling reason to choose PVC wall panels is that they are remarkably cheap. Even then, not all PVC wall panels are equal. A 10mm X 1M shower panel will cost more per square meter than 5MM or 8MM 0.25M wall panels though the thicker panels are stronger.
While there are price differences in the type of PVC wall panel that you use, they are always cheaper than most comparable alternatives.
When weighing the benefits against the disadvantages of PVC wall panels, most feel the pros outweigh the cons. There can be no doubt that PVC wall panels are the cheaper option. But with the price advantage, comes the disadvantage of using a non-genuine product. PVC wall panels will always be the cheap imitation of the real thing. However, many PVC wall panel designs are unique, so rather than being an imitation, they provide a completely different, more modern appearance.
PVC wall panels are durable enough for most homes but will not last indefinitely. The shorter lifespan is offset by the ease and time that you can install them. There is very little dust involved when installing PVC wall panels and the whole process is less involved than any other. It is, therefore, relatively easy, and not too expensive, to replace PVC wall panels when the need arises.
Although, the disadvantage of a shorter lifespan is not always a ‘disadvantage’. Modern interior decorating trends change quite rapidly. In this context, PVC wall panels are preferential. It is more cost effective, and much manageable, to change the look of a room as new styles come in.
Like any product, there is both advantages and disadvantages to using PVC wall panels. What it ultimately comes down to is what you think will suit your home and your lifestyle. If you have a busy household full of young children, PVC panels provide a fresh clean look for your home, require minimal cleaning and have a short installation time meaning that you’re home won’t be out of action for a prolonged period. However, if you are looking to furnish your home with premium products and looking to invest in products that will last you a life time such as marble countertops or terracotta tiles, PVC panels are not your ideal solution.